Goodbyes suck! When you have loved people and shared your lives. When your stories have overlapped for a season and you have laughed and cried and grown together. When your family become your friends or your friends become like family – what a gift from God that is! And then your paths diverge – it can feel like you lost part of yourself. But it’s always like this with God’s family. He always has new adventures and wonderful plans for us to walk in that mean we need to spread out. Wouldn’t it be awful if we never loved enough to feel this pain? Wouldn’t it be dreadful to never have cared enough to miss someone this deeply? As much as I hate the goodbye I am so grateful for the beautiful agony that means I have had so much to lose. Loneliness is lost easily without any regret. Friendship is a treasure that will keep me rich all my life, even when we are apart. Also not forgetting what a hope we have when Jesus returns and we will be part of the most spectacular reunion ever where we get to share our stories and meet all our friend’s friends who will also be like family. And in the meantime thank God we live in the era of Facebook and Skype!
The people of Israel are having to say goodbye at the beginning of Joshua 22. The tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh had already been given their inheritance on the other side of the Jordan but had continued on journeying with the rest of the Israelites, helping them take all the ground that made up their promised land. But having fought and journeyed along side the rest of the nation and got them settled into their new home, it was now time for them to go back to their own land. I utterly love how Joshua blesses them as he sends them on their way with this doozy of a farewell speech;
“Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” – Joshua 22:5
What a brilliant piece of parting advice; ” Goodbye dear friends, and don’t foret to be careful to keep being obedient to God”. This has got to be a top tip for saying goodbye, and what a comfort. “It is God who is leading you into this adventure so keep following His lead and saying yes to Him”. I would never, ever want to make it hard for my friends to say Yes to God’s call. I always want to be cheering them on into the good things He has planned. But I also really like the picture of obedience that Joshua paints here – not just a cold keeping of the rules, but an encouragement to “cling to Him and serve Him with all your heart and soul”. God loves it when we follow Him. He loves when say yes and serve Him. He loves it when we choose righteousness and resist temptation. But He is not looking for an army of robotic slaves who follow orders coldly, but a family of friends whose hearts and souls and lives are surrendered willingly! Oh how I want to live my life like this, holding on to Him, saying yes to Him, loving Him with all my heart and soul. Jesus said this was the greatest commandment;
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” Mark 12:30
And this is how we love because He first loved us! You know what the second most important commandment is? – (paraphrase mine) “Love each other so much it hurts to say goodbye”. So here we all are in a soggy mess clinging to Him with our soft hurting hearts poured out on His feet.
Thinking and praying for all you dear friends facing goodbyes at the moment as kids leave home, or friends move away, or as you set out into the next chapter of the spectacular story God is writing in your life, or you are waving goodbye and letting go again. Cling to Him dear ones and love Him with all your heart and soul because He is worthy!
Much love Rach x